New campaign to stimulate tree planting
2 May 2017
Confor has supported a new campaign which calls for an effective grant system to stimulate tree planting after Brexit.
The Woodland Trust, National Trust and WWF are also among the supporters of the campaign, by think-tank Bright Blue, which calls for the potential of forestry to be fully realised.
A letter published in the Daily Telegraph by the campaign says: "Brexit provides us with a major opportunity to improve rates of woodland creation, and we should seize it."
The letter, which marks the start of a Bright Blue's bid to drive up planting rates, highlights the multiple benefits of forestry. It says: "Trees are vital natural assets, offering a range of benefits, such as protecting biodiversity, reducing flood risk, strengthening the timber, tourism and leisure industries, improving water, soil and air quality, and removing and storing carbon dioxide. Yet trees cover just 12 per cent of the UK's total land area, compared to the EU average of 38 per cent, and the government target to plant 11 million trees in England before 2020 is off track."
It also highlights one of Confor's major criticisms of current policy, the failing Countryside Stewardship grant scheme: "[It] has had very low uptake in its first year, and has been criticised for its restrictive one-month application window, the poorly designed financial incentives, and its slow decision-making process."
The Bright Blue campaign calls on the next Government: "to commit to providing grants for tree planting to farmers after the UK leaves the EU, as a priority for its new domestic agricultural policy. The financial incentives should be at least as strong as they are currently, and should be focused on woodland that delivers multiple public benefits: materials for housebuilding, carbon sequestration, wildlife conservation, and natural flood management."
Stuart Goodall, Confor's Chief Executive, said: "Confor is pressing hard for a single agency to take charge of woodland creation applications, funding and hitting planting targets - which were years off target when the election was called.
"This campaign is another welcome reminder that modern, mixed forestry delivers multiple benefits - but to deliver them, it needs a grant scheme that is fit for purpose and an applications system that is straightforward and does not put people off by its complexity.
"It is also important that all those with an interest in driving up tree planting work together effectively. Confor will continue to collaborate wherever it sees an opportunity to promote the interests of the forestry and wood processing sector, and to build on the wide-ranging economic, environmental and social benefits it delivers - including providing 80,000 jobs and adding £2 billion in value to the UK economy every year."
The full campaign text can be viewed here